In the rapidly evolving world of higher education marketing, college and university websites have become even more fundamental to success. As a first stop for prospective students and other important constituents, your website is a hub for gathering information, connecting through social media, taking virtual tours—and getting acquainted with your brand. And with that elevated position comes an elevated responsibility. If your website feels old and outdated, it could be alienating your audiences and damaging your brand. Let’s change that. Here are 10 ways to make your website the brand-building tool it was meant to be.

  1. Lead with analytics. Rely on analytics to better understand how your website is being used, what improvements need to be made, and how content could be optimized to improve the user experience. Every change your web-development team makes should be rooted in clear and relevant site data.
  2. Focus on function. Your website isn’t just a marketing tool; it’s a digital experience that either enhances your brand or dulls it. Examine your site as a user would. Is it responsive and mobile friendly? Is the navigation obvious and intuitive? Are there unnecessary features that slow the experience? Does the content address prospective student needs and priorities?
  3. Focus on tasks. Site content should be arranged to support the three or four primary tasks of prospective students with minimal clicks. How quickly and easily can users request more information, take a virtual tour, schedule an in-person tour, or apply online? These activities feed your recruitment funnel and make the calls to action crystal clear.
  4. Keep it current. Digital tools are powerful precisely because of their immediacy. If your website is still promoting fall registration in late October, users will disengage and your brand will suffer. If your budget doesn’t support a full-time content manager, organize a group of volunteer content leads charged with retiring old material and coordinating the development of new.
  5. Align content and brand. Your school’s website isn’t a standalone marketing tool; it’s the nerve center of a carefully crafted and highly coordinated brand. Work to ensure that all site content—both copy and visual elements—complement your traditional marketing materials, reinforce your brand narrative, and provide users with a cohesive brand experience.
  6. Use strong, emotive visuals. And while we’re on the subject of visuals, don’t underestimate the power of good design to engage users and support your brand. Photographs, colors, fonts, and recurring brand-related graphic elements should all work to enrich your identity, showcase the very best of your school, and compel prospective students to schedule an in-person visit.
  7. Don’t be afraid of white space. Sure, your institutional website serves a crucial marketing function, but that doesn’t mean every square inch should be filled with content. White space is fundamental to good design. It emphasizes visual elements, makes copy more legible, and infuses your site (and your brand) with a fresh and contemporary vibe.
  8. Integrate social media tools. Today’s user expect a one-stop-shop experience. Add social media widgets to your site to engage audiences and instantly connect them with the students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are living your brand every day.
  9. Place important data front and center. Research shows that a handful of facts (academic reputation, cost to attend, financial aid opportunities, post graduation job placement rates, etc.) directly influence college selection among prospective students. Support your brand and help users by placing these key pieces of information front and center. For an even more engaging approach, communicate detailed data through accessible, ADA-compliant infographics.
  10. Remember, less is more. It’s tempting (and far too easy) to toss everything on a website and trust users to find what they need. Avoid this mistake at all costs. To help visitors focus on your brand and your message, keep copy brief, ruthlessly defend a simple navigation structure, and guard against the dreaded “website sprawl.”

At Stamats, we believe your brand is your most valuable asset. From branding and identity services to web design and development, we’re here to help colleges and universities cultivate, refine, and share their brand more effectively with the world. To learn more about what we do, please call me directly at 319-861-5146 or email beatrice.szalas@stamats.com.

 

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